Private music lessons builds life skills

my First french horn lessons

I started teaching private lessons when I myself was in High School. It was because my band director from Middle School was one of those that encouraged everyone to get help, especially when it came to an instrument like the horn. While in Middle School, I obviously was able to play to some extent, as I’d started Horn in 4th grade. Then because she encouraged students to take private lessons, my parents found a teacher for me. After I started lessons, things started improving. My band director would say, I’ll pull you out of X period class and have you come work with the beginners this week. I didn’t have any issue with that nor missing other classes for the most part, as I really enjoyed my band and choir, all music really, classes. So for 2-3 years of middle school, I worked with kids here and there in class. I just showed them how to hold it, what fingerings were, how to make a sound, etc., played their music with them. I wasn’t really doing anything spectacular from what I could tell, just repeating what I’d been told and what sort of came naturally to a point. I was organizing how to teach someone something into small parts. I was doing this and learning my own organizational skills. They were learning the skill and figuring out that there were small parts being put together to enable them to play and hold the instrument. 


When I started High School my Middle School director sent me 2 Horn students. They came to take private French Horn lessons from me. My thought was “wow, their parents actually paid me!” It was pretty cool. I couldn’t have gotten luckier. My first student was naturally talented, had a good ear, his parents listened to classical music, they encouraged him and he practiced! The 2nd student was just as talented and just as encouraged. They were both so fun to teach and interesting because they had completely different personalities, which made it more fun. My 2nd student didn’t practice as much but it did not matter to me that much. I enjoyed teaching and it was fun to work with them both. And I was earning a few bucks, like a side job while I was in school to boot. I’d already done it for free while I was in Middle School and I never thought about getting paid for it until this point. But this was more in-depth teaching and I was giving them things to work on. I was helping them organize things to work on, learn basic warm-ups, scales, technique with etudes, and fun solos, etc. I was showing them the basics at first. But they both had talent so they improved quickly so they were able to move along quickly. Both of them seemed to be building confidence and learning how to put things in motion.

Taking private lessons for anything you or your child loves is never in vain. Many people just need to be told or be made aware that you can take lessons to help you play an instrument with more ease or do many other things for that matter. Many people just aren’t aware it is something to do if they’ve never done it themselves or were not exposed to the benefits of working one on one with someone. For example, when my kids both started playing baseball, I didn’t realize it would be a good idea to take private lessons for anything related to that. But when they both were interested in pitching, a parent coach made the suggestion, and we went to get a teacher/coach for them to work with. It was after we started baseball lessons that I realized how many similarities to playing music and teaching private music students this had. You show them the basics, you warm them up, you tweak and work on technique, and you get them ready to be better each time they get ready to play. You also give them things to work on. Both are the same in these ways. Not only do taking private lessons help you get trained in better technique and teach you how to warm up, but it also builds confidence. One-on-one help is always a way to help improve things and build self-esteem in the process. It can build skills like being self-sufficient and self-aware. These are life skills, not just music or baseball skills. 

One of the things with taking private music lessons or private sports lessons is that if you are studying regularly with someone, practicing what they’ve assigned can make certain things go farther and improve faster. However, there are many reasons to take music lessons, and it might be you need help with something specific you are playing in your ensemble, or you have an audition coming up. Sometimes, taking lessons is just helpful to have continuous instruction. It helps create more focus in what you do and helps you stay on track, which is true for any private lessons, music, and sports included. And I say this for many reasons. First of all, I was not always one of the students that practiced everything I was assigned. It had to do with other activities, amounts of homework, etc. But, there is always something to teach and always something to learn no matter what stage you are at. If you are in the middle of learning a solo or etude or something, you can still learn techniques for practicing and how to look or approach something at any stage. You can work on sight reading, another skill that I had to develop just by doing it over time. And this is an important one we don’t think about. In certain circumstances, I was OK at it but as someone that is dyslexic, it’s played a role over the years in problems I’ve had even after college. But like I said, it’s a skill, and just like any other skill, it needs to be practiced. Another reason I bring this up is because I had an experience with a parent of one of my former students. The student’s parents wanted me to basically reprimand their kid for not practicing. That’s not really my style of teaching, so they didn’t stick around and they found another teacher. They weren’t with me that long. Not everyone clicks and this was definitely one of those situations. But my approach is as stated above….I always tell them they will get more out of things if they put in the work, but that I always can find something to teach them and work on with them, so it’s up to them at this point. My style is more about encouragement and not reprimand. If I’d kept working with this student, I would have been able to give them suggestions of ways to make practicing fun, and ways to spend less time on things but still improve. Fun and efficient practice isn’t always something you know how to do right away. That’s a skill to be learned. I would’ve learned more about what they wanted to accomplish, what kinds of songs they liked, what was frustrating, what was boring, and so on. Having time to have conversations in lessons is a way to find these things out and sometimes kids have no clue at first. Most of the younger kids just know they like playing in a band and they are being taken to their private lessons. Not all kids have a clue what their goals are or should be. But teaching them to start the thought process is another thing to learn while working with a private teacher. 

Overall, getting feedback on what to do to improve to play your best in the most efficient way is usually a great reason to take lessons. But here are some more:

  •  To make sure you’re on track and you are doing things correctly is one way to build and maintain confidence. 
  • Create awareness in your body and use of air while playing
  • To stay on track with basics
  • Creating goals – goal-setting skills
  • To work towards and accomplish new goals
  • To learn correct skills – thus preventing possible/eventual injury
  • To learn organization – organizing time and practice – schedule; prioritize
  • Learn creative ways to problem solve (within practice setting)

These are all life skills and can be used in other parts of your life. So if you are on the fence about why would you or your child need to take or why should they take private lessons for anything, look above and consider, it’s not just the instrument you are working on, it’s the life skills that go along with this. Another thing is just evolving – a continual improvement that will lead to greater confidence and self-esteem. As humans, we can be lifelong students or learners of anything we choose. You can always work on improving. If you have greater confidence through this then there can be pure enjoyment. Isn’t that what playing music, or playing sports is all about enjoyment? 


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